Sunday, February 26, 2012

A First Timer's Manitoba Elk Hunt

             Last year, I had the pleasure of being drawn for an elk/moose archery tag. As an archery applicant I was able to enter the draw as a single hunter, whereas applicants for general seasons must apply in pairs. I wasn't sure what my chances of being drawn were, since I was a first time applicant, so I was ecstatic when I received my confirmation(and bill) in the mail. After a little more waiting my tag arrived, and then it dawned on me. I had never been elk or moose hunting in my life. I had never even seen a wild elk or moose in the Province of Manitoba. Of course I had read about it, watched shows about it, and knew people who had done it, but I really had no clue how to hunt these animals!

             The drawn tags in Manitoba are issued to specific hunting areas, or GHAs (General Hunting Areas). When I applied I selected a GHA where some people I know hunt elk and moose and where I have also hunted white tail deer in the past. My friend Tom(who I have hunted with and mentioned in previous posts), his son Robbie and I went up the first weekend the season opened to scope out the situation and see what we could find. It was a tough scene as most of the land in the area is privately owned. We were cruising around in the truck just looking for signs or animals or whatever we could see when, lo and behold, through the treeline skirting the fence, we could see a herd of about 30 elk grazing in the field. I am aware that, to some, this may not be a lot of elk, but for Manitoba I believe it was a fair sized gathering. I, having never seen wild elk here before, was in complete awe. Robbie and I had our binoculars glued to our faces and could see three different bulls, one of which looked to be a pretty nice size. Tom suggested we try a call to see if the bulls were actively calling yet. I should add that this was the first weekend of September 2011. I tried out my Hoochie Mama cow call that I had just picked up and surprisingly the bulls responded almost immediately. This was also awe inspiring for me as I had of course never heard the sound of a screaming bull elk before. It must have been a first for Robbie too since we both stood there wide eyed for quite some time listening to these bulls yelling back at us. They eventually figured out that we were not actually stray cows and took off into the bush.

             We continued on our cruise and ended up stopping by Dennis' house, a friend of Tom's who lives in the area. We told Dennis what we were up to and what we had just seen. He informed us that he had permission to hunt on several properties, one of which was where we had just seen the elk herd. To my surprise and excitement he offered to guide me and take me into some spots he knew of. It was at that point that I decided to focus solely on elk hunting, for the time being, and if I happened to get a shot at a deer I would take it.

             As we sat around talking about all this, we suddenly realized that we were way behind in getting out to hunt and if we were still going to make it before dark, we had to go IMMEDIATELY. Tom and Robbie let me grab what I needed from the truck then took off back to the hunting shack. They were headed for a tree stand they had set up near a nice looking deer trail. Dennis and I jumped into his truck and sped off towards the area we had seen the elk earlier. We were losing light fast but he seemed convinced we still might see something, and he wasn't wrong. We pulled up to a wire gate, opened it quickly, drove into a rolling grassy field, followed a bumpy, rutted trail through a clump of trees and parked it before we hit the next clearing. Still having a ways to walk, we were trying to motor, but trying to motor and be quiet can be a challenge. We had been walking for a while when we rounded a bend, Dennis ducking into a bluff of trees that jutted into the field. I, not having known our exact destination, overshot this corner and stood at the point, watching elk butts disappearing into the trees. It happened so fast and with the quickly waning light I wasn't sure it had actually happened. One look at Dennis told me it had, as he was struggling to stifle hysterical laughter into his sleeve. I had stomped around the bend and spooked them all off. From what I could tell, those elk butts would have been very near to if not within shooting range. Oops! I joined my guide in the natural blind of the bluff and we attempted some cow calls to see if we might bring in a curious, lingering spike bull. To our surprise, bulls were responding immediately and they did not sound far away! Nor did they sound like young spikers. This was the closest I had heard bulls calling and the sound gave me goosebumps. Never the less, the sun was setting and as the last rays of light faded, our only sighting remained the disappearing rumps.

             My guide and I both work Monday to Friday jobs and on top of this he does some farm work, which frequently overlaps with the weekends, given that it was early fall. This made finding time to hunt a challenge and trying to map and pattern the elk very difficult. Over the next several weekends, Dennis and I made several attempts, in the mornings and evenings, to bring something in. We tried various spots he knew of, some littered with elk tracks, droppings, beds and even rubs. More times than not we were very successful with our calling and I found it tremendous to just be able to listen to these great creatures and know that they were so close by. Calling as they were, we headed into a spell of hearing lots and seeing nothing, that lasted for what seemed like an eternity.

             *I know some of you are going to be wondering why we didn't go after these animals and stalk them. I told this story to someone and he said, "If you can hear them, they are close enough to sneak up on" and I don't doubt this.  However, as I mentioned earlier, the area is a tough one to hunt with properties divided into quarter mile sections and the sections we had permission to hunt on were not all adjacent to one another. Call this what you will, an excuse, cop-out, whatever, the fact remains that we simply could not access all the areas the elk were going.*

             Several weeks had now gone by and we were looking at mid-October. Not only did archery elk/moose season close very early in November, but archery deer season closed at the same time. I had not yet had a chance at an elk and hadn't even tried to get at a white tail. The elk had nearly stopped calling or had moved off to locations beyond our realm. On Thanksgiving day something cool happened. We were driving down a gravel road and saw a bull moose meandering through a farmer's field. This was the first moose I had ever seen up close in my life. I was able to get a few pictures but this was nowhere near where we had permission to hunt so we simply watched him as he took his time strolling back to the trees. The bull looked stiff and sore and we suspected he had likely taken a beating from another bull at an earlier time. Moose seasons have been cut drastically in Manitoba over the past few years due to significant drops in population so I really was not upset that I didn't get a chance to shoot this moose. I was thrilled to simply lay my eyes on it.   

             From this point on I decided to reverse my original plan and focus on trying to arrow a deer rather than trying to call the now seemingly nonexistent elk. There was a particular field where we had seen deer grazing several times so we decided to give that a try. We headed over late in the morning to find a spot to set up in later. We ended up making a gorgeous little natural blind just off the edge of the field where there was tall grass and thistles amid tall trees. All we really had to do was clear away the grass where we wanted to stand and snap a few overhanging branches from the trees I was to stand behind/between. It seemed like the perfect spot.

             Later that day Dennis and I headed back to our little home made blind, got into position, and began waiting. We had gotten there nice and early to be sure we weren't spooking any animals away on our walk in, as we did have to walk though a lot of that long grass we had removed from the blind area. We also did not bring any sort of chairs to sit on. I had planned to lean on a tree but quickly discovered that my camo and the tree bark had a velcro effect on one another involving a loud ripping sound every time I leaned away from the tree. So I just stood there, trying to be still and patient, waiting. Nothing was coming.

            The sun was beginning to set, slowly. Time dragged on as we continued to stand there waiting for something that seemed would never come. I could tell Dennis was getting impatient. He leaned over and asked me, in a whisper, if I wanted to head back for the truck. I was pondering it. We started whisper-laughing and joking about our bad luck, "Where the **** are all the animals?", "What kind of guide are you anyways Dennis?!" etc. Meanwhile, I can only assume by some inherent instinct, I was still scanning the area in front of us. I had been looking far to the right and was slowly turning my head to the left to say to Dennis "Yeah okay let's get out of here" when I had to whip my head back around for a double take. I stared at them for a good couple seconds before my brain was able to process that there were two cow elk both with calves walking down the middle of the field towards us. I hadn't even seen them come out of the bush. I turned to Dennis and said "There are elk like, RIGHT there" and pointed. They were only eighty or ninety yards away. He looked, saw the elk, and his demeanor immediately changed. This was serious now. Without seeming to move he was now clutching the back side of a tree trunk peering around it. I tried snapping a photo before they got too close and still can not believe I didn't spook them off when my flash horrifically went off unexpectedly. One cow looked but only briefly before they continued their jaunt. Relieved, I slipped the range finder out of my chest pocket and began taking range. They were getting closer and they were big! Then I realized there was a bull too. He was dark, unusually dark. By the waning light of dusk I could barely make him out against the opposite treeline about 80 yards away. I think he was a  6x6, not huge, but nice, I was more interested in his nearly black hide. The cows and their calves were now grazing around the 50 yard mark and I was faced with a couple dilemmas. First was that Dennis, the property owner and I had previously come to the consensus that I should shoot for a bull of any size, or a dry cow. Second, which is probably more important than animal selection, was that I wasn't sure about shooting at 50 yards. I had practiced up to that distance but wasn't comfortable with my consistency and also wasn't sure what kind of penetration a 50lb bow on an elk at 50 yards would be like. Another thing scratching in the back of my mind was that these guys; the property owner and my guide, Dennis, are strict rifle hunters who like their animals to drop in the scope. I was the first bow hunter that had been allowed to hunt there in many years so I was more terrified than usual of making a poor shot and wounding an animal. With all this going through my head and the previously elusive elk standing right there, I was having a savage internal battle and nearly drew my bow several times. But I did not. We simply watched these magnificent creatures walk up a hill and out of sight, the calves frolicking playfully at times. This would be my last elk hunt for the year.

They are hard to make out but you can see the two cows and one calf.
            During and after hunting seasons many of my non-hunting friends and family ask me how my season is going. The conversation usually goes something like this: "So, did you get anything?", "Nope, not yet!" "Oh, that's too bad." It makes me laugh. These people clearly don't understand why I, and so many others, hunt. It really is not 'too bad' that I didn't get an elk. I enjoyed every moment hunting these animals, even when it was just listening to them calling in the distance, or investigating their tracks and droppings. All of this was brand new to me and I gained valuable knowledge during each hunt. I have absolutely no regrets about not taking a shot at one that final day (Even though I did make some really good shots at 50 yards at a 3D shoot later on). To me, hunting is all about the experience; getting out there, trying new things, seeing and hearing new things, and above all learning from it all. So, elk or no elk, I feel I accomplished all of these things during my first season elk hunting and look forward, with excitement, to the next chance I get to hunt these incredible animals!



Monday, January 23, 2012

Time Flies


It's been a busy year and a lot has happened.. I'm working on some new projects and will have some updates coming soon. I have some European skull mounts to complete and have been coyote hunting a lot since deer season closed. I also had some pretty neat elk and deer hunting experiences last fall.

Stay tuned and I will fill you in!



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Cure for Winter Boredom: Simple Pleasures

I have had the extreme displeasure of being trapped in the city all winter thus far. Since hunting season closed that is. I have also had the extreme displeasure of living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, whose winter's are quite unfathomable to most of the worldly population. This has forced me to come up with some simple indoor projects to occupy my time and sometimes my brain. I am guilty of being a procrastinator at times. Some of these projects were ones I had intended to do ages ago and have only gotten around to just recently. My brain must have had a subliminal motive to save these projects for winter for they really did give me something entertaining to do in desperate times of boredom.

Project One: Bleaching My Bear Skull
 Here you will already see a fine example of my procrastination skills. Some of you are probably thinking,
"Didn't she shoot that bear back in September?" 
Well yes, as a matter of fact I did!
The skull was boiled in September after I got the bear, then placed on an ant hill under a pot in a friend's back yard. When I decided it would be a good idea to finally bleach the skull, I had to go poking and digging my way through two and a half feet of snow to get the darn thing out! I plan these things out to a tee, you see.
I thought the skull looked pretty clean compared to when I stuck it under the pot and figured bleaching it would be a breeze. Well.. A warning to first time skull bleachers, as I was, this is a job that can get pretty messy, pretty fast! I had done a bit of a poll through good 'ol Facebook to get opinions on how exactly to do the bleaching; peroxide or chlorine bleach was my main question, and decided to go with the peroxide. I went down to the drugstore and almost felt criminal loading my basket with bottles of peroxide, nearly clearing their shelf of it. I got home, placed the skull in a big pot where it could be completely submerged and began pouring in the peroxide. I now have a vision embedded in my brain to accompany the phrase "Double Double Toil and Trouble"  As  I said, I thought the skull was pretty clean. I was wrong. That pot bubbled and fizzed and gurgled like nothing I have seen. It was nasty. I would take it out periodically and brush it with a toothbrush to try to remove some of the yellow and brown and every time I put it back in the pot it would start bubbling up all over again with no new peroxide added. I'm no chemist but it would be interesting to know what kind of reaction was taking place in there to cause such bubbling.

When the skull was as white as I thought it was going to get I removed it from the pot and let it dry. Many of the teeth had fallen out as all of the connective tissue around them had disintegrated. I don't think my 3% drugstore peroxide was quite strong enough as there was still an odor to the skull after. I gave it a quick soak in some bleach water to try to eliminate the smell after. Then I fully dried it and glued the teeth back in.

That is as far as I went with the process but got a few other tips from my Facebook poll. One being that I should soak the skull in white gas to draw out the remaining oils after bleaching which would remove the odor. This step I could not complete as I live in an apartment with a room mate and the smell of gas would surely be grounds for eviction. Another tip was to seal the skull with a mixture of white glue and water. Some even said they had spray painted their skulls ivory to seal them, though I'm not fond of that idea myself.


Project Two: Creating My First Venison Chili
This, to some, may seem a common occurrence, but for a first timer I was pretty excited to finally make venison chili. In fact I had never made any chili from scratch before. I found a recipe online which I roughly followed, adding my own spices and ingredients as I saw fit. I did not write down sizes of cans I dumped in that crock pot or weigh out the meat which I ground and wrapped myself in a 'that looks about right' hunk.. So my recipe is vague, but here are the ingredients that I used:

1 package ground venison
1 big can crushed stewed tomatoes
1 big can kidney beans
1 can brown beans
1 can sliced black olives
1 can corn niblets
1 can tomato paste
1 fresh green pepper- chopped
1 fresh red pepper- chopped
5 fresh jalapeno peppers- chopped
5-6 fresh celery stalks- chopped
3-5 cloves fresh crushed garlic
chili powder
cayenne pepper
cumin spice

I know this is not really going to help anyone who wants to make this but that's the best I can do. I tend to just throw things together and taste it as I go. It turned out so well though. So well that I guess I forgot to take a picture of it when it was actually cooked. This photo was taken when I had just finished tossing everything into the slow cooker. The slow cooker is my hero by the way. It makes me look like i know how to cook...

Project Three: Painting an Old Dresser
This one is as simple as it sounds. Someone gave me an old dresser that was once white and was looking like it had been around for a while, so I decided to slap some paint on it. It's much prettier now.

And last but not least...

Today's Project:

Yes I am in bed. That is a heated duvet. I love it dearly. I also love coffee. 

Until next time.

Time to think of some more projects.........

Friday, January 14, 2011

Going Out With A Bang

This is a story that dates back to the weekend of November 27th and 28th, 2010, the final days of rifle deer season for us here last year. Rifle season is only open for three weeks and in most areas opens the day after archery and/or muzzle loader seasons close. The first two weekends of the season passed as I sat at home, cooped up in the city, for the first weekends in what seemed like forever, during the near peak of the rut, while virtually everyone I knew was out hunting. I listened to everyone's hunting stories and heard about their successes and tried to act excited to hear about so-and-so's latest kill. I was happy for them but damn was I pissed that I got left at home. It was all scheduling conflicts, and my lack of a vehicle at the time, I knew I wasn't getting ditched but things just were not in my favour. The final weekend was approaching and finally I got invited out to hunt on friend Tom's property where I had first successfully rifle hunted in 2008. The timing was perfect, no time conflicts(due to me possibly getting too sick to work that evening) and late Friday morning we were off!

Three hours later we arrived at 'The Shack', blissfully far from the city and it's annoyances. We settled in, got the fire roaring and got into our gear right away to go sit for a bit of an evening hunt with the light we had left. I might add that there was a good foot or more of snow on the ground and it was below minus 20 Celsius. Thus, by gearing up I mean putting on about ten layers until I became an orange Michelin Man. Thin finger gloves under big warm mittens were critical in order to actually be able to pull the trigger later on, should the chance arrive, and toe warmers were a must in order to stay out for any more than an hour. Quite different from archery season that's for sure. Either way, we didn't see anything that evening and returned back to the shack for some hot supper and bed.

Driveway Stand
The next morning we were up early and went back to the same stands of the previous night. We knew there were fresh tracks on the driveway into Tom's property from when we drove in the day before but I had it in my mind that I wanted to go back to the stand in 'the big field'. I had shot my first two deer ever out of that stand two years before. I did not see any deer, though I did have the great pleasure of observing a great gray owl making his rounds about the field. The owl was quite large but I watched it land on the very top of a sapling of a pine tree and was baffled as to how the tree did not bend right over with the bird's weight as he stared intently at the ground, undoubtedly at some unseen prey. I believe the stand I was in must be a usual vantage point for this owl while not occupied by a hunter. I had actually forgotten the owl was around as he had not moved in quite a period of time when I looked to my left and saw him gliding straight towards me. I wish I had had a camera rolling during this for it was probably one of the most amazing things I have seen. He flew directly at me across the field, his eyes like perfect goggles staring at me, I kept thinking he would swoop up or turn but he kept coming. I let out a small whistle when he was almost upon me because I panicked not knowing what would happen should he land on the rail of my stand. Only then did he swoop up, but just to land on a branch not six feet above my head. I sat there in awe for several minutes as this majestic bird sat perched only feet above me, ignoring my presence, only to eventually glide off not to be seen again that weekend. The following morning I returned to the same stand, only to see nothing but a beautiful heavy fog that not only dampened my clothing but hindered my view past twenty yards.

Tom and I, being morning and evening hunters at this point, were unsure of what to do next. He needed to go to town(a local town, not 'the city') that afternoon. I had planned to go with him but at the last second decided I would sit in the driveway stand until he returned as he was only to be about an hour and a half. I was in my michelin man gear and got dropped off at the stand, climbed up, and Tom drove off. The plan was that I was to sit until he came back, or until I started to freeze, at which point I was to start walking back to the shack.

Found Him!
I sat for what seemed like a very long time before anything happened. The driveway stand was such that there could either be shots to the left or shots to the right, anything directly in front would be close and difficult to aim at. Tom had been gone for near fourty five minutes, which was long enough for me to realize my toes were beginning to freeze, when I heard a doe bleat directly behind me. I sat motionless trying to determine which direction this/these deer must be traveling. I caught a glimpse of motion to my left and rotated in that direction, the pail I was sitting on creaking only slightly. Four does emerged from the bush right onto the driveway. I was looking through my scope trying to pick out the biggest one. There were two nice does and two smaller ones, but they were coming right at me since they had turned onto the driveway. They seemed a bit scattered and one mature doe finally offered a broadside shot, which I immediately had my scope set on. My finger was creeping onto the trigger, so very close to squeezing it, when a buck emerged at the very last second, coming out a little bit closer to me than all four does, perfectly broadside onto the driveway. My scope immediately veered to him. I had a close twig in my scope that was blocking him so for a few tense moments I just waited until he fully stepped out, clear of this twig. BANG. I pulled the trigger and his front end ploughed through the snow digging up fresh earth from below the foot plus deep snow. He made it across the driveway but I knew he would not make it much farther. He was toast and my heart was just pounding. I reloaded hoping to possibly still take one of the nice does but they scattered and made their escapes. I was shaking, vibrating with adrenaline. I reached into my pocket and fumbled for my pack of cigarettes, my guilty pleasure. Struggled with my lighter, finally sparked a flame and inhaled the pure elation that was my first antlered buck. I sat there smoking from my violently vibrating hand, sure that Tom would be showing up any minute. I looked up and realized there was another deer approaching right in front of me coming down a trail straight at me. I placed my cigarette on a rail of the wood tree stand, lifted the gun and aimed at the deer's shoulder. BANG. It seemed so much louder the second time, yet this deer trotted merely ten feet and stopped. I saw it's wound thinking I may have just grazed it, for there was blood on it's side but it hadn't gone down. I took aim again, just to be safe, and not wanting to track this deer all over the land, and pulled the trigger again. Down it went in my scope. My cigarette was still lit on the rail and I resumed that as if nothing had happened, hands still shaking.

Tom's hour and a half sure seemed like it was getting long and, despite my excitement and adrenaline, I began to realize my feet were still frozen and that I better do something soon. My original hope had been that he would pull up and we would go find the deer together but he took too long and I went in without him. I knew where the second deer was, as I had seen it go down, so I placed a marker on a tree, hoping Tom would realize I had gone into the bush, and went in to find what I discovered was a tasty looking button buck. Knowing that guy was close and easy to find, I left him and went back to the driveway to check out the buck's plough marks. There was a ton of hair and I could easily follow his tracks through the deep snow, his being the ones with blood droplets scattered and sprayed around them. I was excitedly and quickly following his blood trail when I saw him, about fifty yards in off the driveway. He was down for the count, my first antlered buck. Just at that moment as I was about to walk right up to him, Tom's truck came barreling down the driveway right past the tree stand and right past my marker. I really did not want to have to walk all the way back to the shack to get him so I quickly exited the bush only stopping him with my blaze orange outfit. He reversed back to me and it was a good thing he had his little deer sled in the back of the truck! I was too excited to really say much, but he knew from the look on my face that I had shot something. I took him to the button buck which we easily dragged without the sled to the driveway, merely ten yards away. Tom thought I had only shot the one deer at first because when I went to take him back into the bush, he said, "Oh! You got two deer!" So we trudged our way down the easy blood trail I had already found and came to my buck. "Oh nice one!", he exclaimed as we approached the downed deer. I was so excited even though his rack was no trophy, it was a prize to me, my first antlers! It excites me just writing about it now. He had a nice sized body and we definitely needed the sled to drag him out even though the distance was short. Back to the shack we went, had a skinning party, some beers, no worries about waking up too early because we were all tagged out.
No master photography here but there they are.

It was a weekend of firsts for me. The first time I shot two deer in one day, the first time I watched one drop right in my scope, and my very first antlered buck. I love memories like this one and I hope to make many more in the years to come.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dear Branches, You Suck

Saturday morning's hunt rolled around and Tim and I were up early and ready to go. Well, early enough. I got off work late on Friday and we got out to the cottage really late. Three hours of sleep was all we had until that alarm clock was blaring us awake and we were dragging our butts out of bed into the freezing cold cottage, no time to bother with a fire the night before. Quick coffees and some disgruntled conversation I don't remember and we were off.

We headed to a spot we hadn't hunted yet this year to try something different. Tim was going to do some rattling and calling for me and I was supposed to do the shooting. We parked the truck and headed into our 'spot' which we hadn't really picked yet. We had been in the area before and knew there was fairly open country spotted with clumps of low brush throughout. No place for a tree stand so we opted for a ground blind set up for the both of us. We got onto a heavy deer trail that led to another trail at a sort of open cross road. Tim asked what I thought of one spot where we would only have bush behind us and on our right side. We almost set up there but I decided at the last minute I wanted to be on the other side of the right hand bush, which would give me shots at both the cross road trails. The spot I picked had bush behind us and on both sides. We put the ground blind across the front of the mini clearing where there was no bush. I could stand and easily shoot over it. So there we sat on our little stools waiting a while before Tim started his calls.

We were not using an actual 'call' as Tim is pretty good at doing voice calls, but we cut an old rack of Tim's to rattle with. He did some grunts and some doe bleats followed by some rattling and more grunts. Minutes after and out of nowhere we both heard and then immediately saw an animal approaching to our right. My first thought was that it was a small deer but it didn't look right for a deer. I examined it the best I could through the thick bush where it was traveling, angling behind us. It was something I had never seen before, a cat of some kind. I had seen cat tracks around earlier this year but I wasn't sure if they were bobcat or lynx or even cougar as there had been rumored sightings of one in the area. Tim told me it was a bobcat. It was a pretty neat thing to see. Shut the squirrels up for a few minutes too, which was a nice treat.

Tim and I were whispering back and forth about the bobcat for a little while and talking about the wind and 'I think I heard something over there' and 'It was just a squirrel', while we both continued to scan for animals. I was looking somewhere way off to the right almost behind us when Tim suddenly whispered 'Here comes one, big buck, BIG  BUCK!' I whipped my head around and there in front of us, a little to the right of our blind, in trotted the biggest buck I could ever dream of seeing in my life. I couldn't make out his whole rack but the main beams were incredibly thick. This boy was about fourty yards in front of us but not on the trail we had expected to see deer on. He was behind the trail in a scraggly clump of brush. He was no fool. He slowed to a walk within the clump making his way broadside in front of us from right to left, always behind branches and bush. I, having picked the three sided spot, was peering through my side of the bush, when he stopped in what would have been an opening if I wasn't behind a bush myself. He stared directly at our blind for what seemed like an eternity to my half crouched legs and quivering body. Arrow knocked and release clipped to the string I was waiting, just hoping for any kind of shot opportunity to present itself. As he stood staring at us I realized this buck had the body of a bloody cow. He was enormous in every sense and I wish I had a picture to prove I am not exaggerating. We were downwind and he eventually decided that there was nothing worth looking at and continued to walk. I was still looking at him through that cursed bush I was so sure I wanted to be behind earlier. Tim let out another grunt that stopped the buck in his tracks. I was now staring at a perfect thirty to thirty five yard broadside shot between two saplings a foot in front of me. The only problem was that there were several branches crossing horizontally between the saplings. Questions flooded my brain. Could I shoot through the branches? How soon would my arrow begin to arc? What happens if I hit a branch right in front of my face? Will my arrow ricochet back at me? Can I shoot from the half crouch/kneel I would have to be in to be at the right height? My arm was in spasms as I, over and over, went to tug my string back then changed my mind. Time ran out and the buck walked on. Tim tried a doe bleat which surprisingly turned the buck right around! Right around back onto the same bushy trail he had entered on. He did not stop again and walked straight out of our sight leaving us in awe of what had just happened. I was looking around like an idiot repeatedly whisper-asking Tim 'What should I do now? Should I go after him? Can you call him back?' He told me I could try going after him, which I wasn't sure if I should do or not since we had avoided spooking him thus far. Excitement and curiosity got the better of me and I snuck out of our blind up towards where he had just gone only seconds before. I made it about thirty yards from our blind when I briefly saw him walking through thick bush. As quickly as I had caught sight of him, he was gone, like a ghost. Just gone. I never saw him again even though I continued to sneak in the direction he had gone. I still don't think I spooked him. I found a scrape and a rub a little ways farther up the bit of ridge I had walked up. I was checking those out a bit and thought I had made enough noise that I didn't need to bother being so sneaky going back down. I walked right back down onto another deer at the crossroad which I could only identify by it's big white butt springing away from me. Man oh man! Tim had heard me coming and watched that whole stunt happen, armed with nothing but rattling horns. Shit.

He informed me that it was a nice three by three buck. I just threw my arms up in disbelief and laughed. We sat a little while longer with no further sightings, packed up and left. We had a few more sightings the rest of the weekend but ultimately had to come home Sunday empty handed. I couldn't think of anything but that buck for the rest of the weekend and continue to think about it now. What an amazing thing to see even though I didn't bring him home. Tim is sure he shot at the same buck last year in the same area. He had used his 7mm rifle and hit a tiny twig in front of the deer, ricocheting his bullet into a fallen, dead tree behind the buck.

As much as I have analyzed and re-analyzed this scenario over and over and over in my head I realize it would have been extremely lucky for a second year bow hunter like myself to have brought this deer home. When I think about it now, I think I could have made the shot through the branches. In fact, I know I could have. I thought of the chronograph I have shot through at the range and the opening I shot through on that was much smaller than the opening between the branches. But I didn't make the shot. As much as I am still kicking myself, I realize that this is all part of the learning curve. I feel good that I didn't just shoot when I was unsure at the time. This is how mistakes happen. If you have read my previous posts you know that I have shot and lost deer and that I do not want to do this again. I will not make a shot again that I am unsure of. I give this buck complete credit in outsmarting me. They don't make it that far in their lives by being stupid.

You win buck. Until we meet again. And branches, you suck.